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February 26, 1999 - 10 Adar, 5759

558: Tetzaveh

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Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.

  557: Terumah559: Ki Tisa  

Purim Revisited  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  Rambam this week  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

Purim Revisited

Purim is a holiday for children and the children at heart.

And why shouldn't it be? According to Jewish teachings, it was because of the Jewish children that the miraculous rescue of the entire Jewish people took place.

Let's back track a little in the Purim story, though, to get the whole picture. Haman had managed to get King Ahasuerus to agree to his evil plan of totally annihilating the Jewish people. He even had in his hand the decree with the royal stamp on it, rendering the ruling irrevocable. At this point, Haman once again encountered Mordechai, who was teaching Torah to a group of thousands of children.

As before, this time too, Mordechai did not bow or in any way humble himself to Haman. Feeling himself at the apex of his political power and prowess, Haman was more enraged than ever before. He vowed that the children would be the first to die.

The mothers of the children begged them to leave Mordechai, but they refused. They urged their children to break their fast - a fast which, at Esther's request, Mordechai had required of the entire Jewish people. The children, once more, refused. They would remain with Mordechai, studying Torah and praying to G-d with the firm belief that He would hear their sincere and pure prayers and redeem them from this catastrophe.

What was it that gave these children such faith, and more to the point, such hope, despite the seemingly helpless situation?

The children had been studying with Mordechai laws concerning the Holy Temple. Though the First Temple had already been destroyed and the Second Temple had not yet been built, Mordechai taught the children about the Holy Temple. These teachings instilled within the children a strong belief, longing and hope that at any moment the Holy Temple could and would be rebuilt.

The children's prayers, their tears and cries, persuaded G-d to revoke the Divine Decree (thereby nullifying the earthly decree of Haman and King Ahasuerus). And what made their prayers so powerful, was that they had been educated by Mordechai to believe in the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, the ingathering of the exiles back to Israel, and the Redemption.

Today, thank G-d, there is no place in the world where Jews are threatened with annihilation. But still, there are personal, communal, national and global issues that we would like to see rectified. All of us, on various levels, dream of a perfect world.

When the long-awaited Redemption commences, all of humankind will experience this perfect world. And the way to properly direct our prayers and actions to hasten the Redemption, is through studying Torah, specifically Torah that inspires hope, faith and longing for the Redemption.

Happy Purim, and may we celebrate it together as one, united people, in Jerusalem with the revelation of Moshiach, NOW!

Living with the Rebbe

The Torah reading Tetzaveh, which we read this week, continues from the previous portion to enumerate the commandants that pertain to the various details of the Sanctuary. These portions contain the "instructions" on how to make the Sanctuary's vessels, as well as the holy garments that were worn by the kohanim (priests).

The very last mitzva we are told of relates to the building of the golden altar and the incense offering that was made upon it. "And you shall make an altar to burn incense upon...every morning when he dresses the lamps...a perpetual incense before the L-rd, throughout your generations." Because the incense offering concludes the list of these mitzvot, we may infer that it was the culmination of all the different services that were performed in the Sanctuary.

Every day the incense offering was made by a different kohen. Only the kohen was allowed to enter; no other person was permitted to be present when the mitzva was performed. The kohen was alone in the Divine Presence of the Holy One.

The same holds true for the G-dly service of every individual Jew. The highest level we strive for is the observance of Torah and mitzvot without fanfare or publicity, in which each of us stands alone in G-d's presence. In a certain sense, every Jew is considered to be a "kohen," as G-d commanded, "You shall be to me a nation of kohanim." Just as the kohanim were chosen to perform the service in the Sanctuary and Holy Temple, so too has every Jew been chosen to serve G-d, not only for his own sake but for his people as a whole.

The best way to perform any mitzva, particularly the mitzva of tzedaka (charity), is not under the glare of spotlights or in front of a camera. A Jew doesn't observe a mitzva in order for his good deed to be written up in the newspapers. The most perfect manner of doing a mitzva is in secret, so that only G-d and the participant are aware of it - just like the incense that was offered by the kohen in the sole presence of G-d.

Furthermore, just like the incense offering in the Sanctuary, when a Jew observes the Torah's commandments in secret, it likewise causes the Divine Presence to dwell in the physical world.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Volume 1

A Slice of Life


Rabbi Kupchik reading the Megila in Poona

by Shai Gefen

"With my trip to Poona for Purim I felt that a circle was closing," says Yahel Dayan, who accompanied Rabbi Betzalel Kupchik to Poona, India, for Purim two years ago.

Eight years before returning to Poona with the rabbi, Dayan had spent time traveling around India, wandering from from cult to cult in search of himself. Eventually he wound up in Poona, described by many as one of the world centers of "spirituality." The main ashram in Poona is comprised primarily of young people from America, Germany and, not surprisingly, Israel.

Yahel's goal in visiting Poona this time, however, was entirely different. He and Rabbi Kupchik were hoping to help young Israelis celebrate Purim and perform the mitzvot of the holiday.

The idea to go to Poona for Purim came from an interesting source. A young Israeli planned on visiting Poona and mentioned his impending trip to a few Lubavitcher acquaintances. Knowing full-well that Poona is steeped in idolatry, the Lubavitchers tried to discourage him from going. He finally agreed to ask the Rebbe. He wrote a letter and placed it randomly into one of the volumes of the Rebbe's letters [Igrot Kodesh]. Everyone was truly shocked when the letter he opened to said that the trip should take place and a Chasidic farbrengen (gathering) should be organized there.

While in Poona, the young man arranged a "Chasidic gathering" with some local Jews. An Israeli journalist who was in India covering Mr. Ezer Weitzman's visit (which was taking place at the same time), wrote about the "Chasidic gathering" in Poona, and concluded the article, "Poona awaits the Rebbe."

Rabbi Kupchik met this young man after his return from Poona. He spoke to Rabbi Kupchik of the thousands of Israelis who pass through the city in search of spirituality. He pointed out the opportunities for outreach.

"Then," explains Rabbi Kupchik, "out of nowhere, a colleague who directs Chabad outreach to the Kibbutzim in Israel suggested that I go to Poona, and even offered to finance part of the trip. I invited Yahel to accompany me since he had spent time in Poona before becoming observant." Rabbi Kupchik and Yahel wrote a letter to the Rebbe about the trip which they place in a volume of Igrot Kodesh, "and after receiving an amazing answer we decided to go."

The logistics were by no means simple. The two Chabadniks (as Chabad-Lubavitcher Chasidim are affectionately called in Israel) had to bring all of the food, Purim necessities, and outreach material with them from Israel. Their luggage ended up weighing over 1,000 pounds!

Four days before Purim, the two men arrived in Poona. They did not as yet know where they would stay, nor where they would hold the Shabbat meals and services they were planning on organizing or the Megila reading and Purim party they were sure to make. What they did know were the locations where the Israeli's hang-out.

Rabbi Kupchik describes their modus ope-randi: "As soon as we came we began looking for Jews. We began to make connections and asked them to inform their friends that on Shabbat we'd be providing meals and that on Saturday night the Megila would be read. This was before we had even managed find the place we ended up renting for the weekend."

On Thursday evening they signed a contract with a restaurant owner and begin publicizing the new albeit temporary Chabad Center. When the two men came to set up for Shabbat services they noticed graven images on the walls as well as candles lit for the idols. The restaurant owner agreed to extinguish the candles and a call to a rabbinic authority in Israel gave them the ruling they needed to deal with the images.

That Friday evening over 100 Jews came to the "Chabad Center" for services and a Shabbat meal.

On the Shabbat before Purim, there is a mitzva to hear the special portion of Parshat Zachor. Poona's old Jewish community was far from where the Chabadniks were staying, but they arrived in the local shul at 7:00 a.m Saturday morning nevertheless. There they joined the ten Jewish men who were delighted that they would hear the Torah reading. For, though they had a Torah scroll, no one in the small community knew how to read it.

In addition to reading the Torah, the Chabadniks also taught about Purim and spoke of the Rebbe's prophecy that the Redemption is imminent. Afterwards, they walked back to the "Chabad Center" where an even larger crowd had gathered than the night before.

When Shabbat was over, the Purim festivities began. The Chabadniks returned to the local shul to read the Megila. "Their joy," says Yahel, "was indescribable. Many asked if there could be a permanent Chabad Center in Poona!"

Trekking back to the restaurant turned Chabad Center, the Rabbi Kupchik and Yahel were delighted to find that hundreds of Jews had arrived.

The next day, on Purim itself, the previous night's events were repeated with the addition of the other Purim mitzvot: distribution of mishloach manot (gifts of food to friends), extra charity, and feasting and joy. Throughout the day, Rabbi Kupchik read the Megila for those who had not yet participated in this mitzva. Toward evening there was a Purim meal and an authentic Chasidic farbrengen where saying "l'chaims," words of Torah, songs, and stories of the Rebbe flowed. The evening ended in the early morning, with many of the young people posing questions about Judaism, G-d and Torah.

On the Purim holiday when one wears a disguise and hides one's identity, hundreds of Jews in Poona were inspired to reveal their Jewish souls.

What's New


A plethora of Purim programs and projects are being provided by your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center. Carnivals and mask decorating, Purim plays and masquerade contests, every Chabad Center will be offering its own version of Purim celebrations which will, of course, include the important mitzva of hearing the Megila (Scroll of Esther) on March 1 at night and March 2 in the day. Contact your local center to find out details.


Hundreds of Lubavitcher Chasidim will visit nursing homes, hospitals and prisons in the New York Metro area on Purim to help their fellow Jews celebrate the holiday. They will bring mishloach manot (food gifts) and will read the Megila for those otherwise unable to attend Purim events.

The Rebbe Writes

Erev Purim, 5741 [1981]

To All Participants in the

Chanukat Habayit of the New Synagogue

"The Persian Jewish Center of Brooklyn"

I was very pleased to be informed of the Chanukat Habayit [dedication ceremony] of the New Synagogue and Center, which is to take place on the day after Shushan Purim, and may G-d grant that it should be with utmost Hatzlocho [success].

The importance of the event, as well as its timely relevance to Purim, are self-evident. As everybody knows, the Miracle of Purim occurred in Persia, as related in detail in Megillat Esther. And ever since, "these days (of Purim) are remembered and observed every year by all Jews everywhere" - in the spirit of the first Purim, which brought about a renewal and resurgence of Jewish commitment to the Torah and Mitzvos, as if they had just been received from G-d at Sinai.

What makes the event even more relevant is the fact that the new Synagogue and Center will serve the spiritual needs of the Persian Jewish children in the area. For, as our Sages tell us, the Miracle of Purim was brought about by the Jewish children in Persia in those days, who bravely disregarded the threats by the wicked Haman, and gathered around Mordechai Hayehudi [the Jew] to study Torah, absolutely determined "not to kneel nor bow down" to any force that would alienate Jews from the way of the Torah.

By the Grace of G-d we live here in a country where Jews do not face a Haman. But the forces of alienation are nevertheless very strong and very active. We must therefore do all we can to ensure that all our Jewish children will be able to resist the influences of the environment, and will always remain devoted and dedicated to the Jewish way of the Torah and Mitzvos.

The new synagogue and center is certainly a notable achievement in this direction, and a source of great rejoicing, not only for the Persian Jewish community, but for all our Jewish people. And through redoubled efforts to provide Torah-true education for all Jewish children and to spread and strengthen Yiddishkeit in general, we are assured of "Light, joy, gladness, and honor" in the fullest sense of these terms, and of speeding the true and complete Geulah [Redemption] through Moshiach Tzidkeinu very soon indeed.

With esteem and blessing,

8th of Adar II, 5738 [1978]

[This letter was written to the Editors of Campers Magazine, published in England]

I was pleased to receive the first issue of your magazine which was published in connection with Purim and Pesach.

Since I see that the magazine includes my Purim message about the role of Jewish children in the miracle of Purim as well as a Pesach message, in which the role of Jewish children is also emphasized, there is no need for me to elaborate on it here, although the role of Jewish children in Jewish life in general, and in connection with the festivals in particular, cannot be overemphasized.

I will only add that inasmuch as G-d has given every Jewish child boy and girl, such an important role, it is certain that He has given them also the powers to carry it out in the fullest measure, and with joy and gladness of heart.

Please convey to all your readers my prayerful wishes for a joyous and inspiring Purim, and may everyone, in the midst of all our people, be blessed with a full measure of "light, joy, gladness and honor" - both in the ordinary sense of the words, as well as in their inner meaning, namely "Light - this is Torah, etc." Since the Torah and Mitzvos, though a must for their own sake, are also the way to be blessed with "light, joy, gladness and honor" in the ordinary sense.

With blessing,

Rambam this week

In memory of Yosef Yitzchak ben Shlom Shneur Zalman (yblc't)

14 Adar 5759

Positive mitzva 173: appointing a king

By this injunction we are commanded to appoint a king over ourselves, a Jew, who will bring together our whole nation and act as our leader. It is derived from the words (Deut. 17:15): "You shall in any wise set him king over you."

A Word from the Director

The Baal Shem Tov's explanation of the Mishna "He who reads the Megila backwards has not fulfilled his obligation" is well known: If someone reads the Megila thinking that it only relates to an historical event and that the miracle is not happening in our own times, he's missing the point. The purpose of reading the Megila on Purim is to teach us how to conduct ourselves today.

At the time of Haman's decree, the Jewish people enjoyed a relatively high standing in Persian society. Mordechai was a very respected personage in the kingdom, and having once saved the king's life, was accorded certain privileges. Esther, the queen, was the most important woman in the realm. In other words, the Jews were politically "connected." It would have been logical to think that once Haman's evil plan became known, the Jews would have capitalized on their "protektziya" and tried to influence Achashveirosh to nullify the decree.

But as the Megila relates, the first thing Mordechai did was "don sackcloth and ashes and go out into the city." Only afterward did he appeal to Esther to intervene with the king. Likewise, Esther requested that the Jews fast on her behalf. Instead of trying to improve her physical appearance to win the king's favor, she fasted and prayed for three days, something which no doubt did little to enhance her looks. Both Mordechai and Esther realized that Haman's decree would not be nullified through the natural order of things, but only through teshuva, a complete and sincere return to G-d.

How is this relevant to us? Whenever a Jew encounters a difficulty or danger and thinks he can solve the problem by acting "logically," he should remember the lesson of the Megila: Working within the natural order is the second step, not the first. The rules that govern our existence are different from other peoples'! The first thing to do is strengthen our connection with G-d, learning His Torah and observing His mitzvot. In that way, salvation and deliverance will surely come.

Thoughts that Count

And you shall command (Tetzaveh) the Children of Israel (Ex. 27:20)

The word Tetzaveh is derived from tzavta, meaning attachment and connection. In other words, G-d commanded Moses to be always attached and connected to the Jewish people. And because Moses sacrificed himself on their behalf, he merited that his strength would remain with them eternally. (Sefat Emet)

To cause a light to burn always...outside the veil (Ex. 27:20-21)

G-d's "light" must shine within the Jew not only in the synagogue or study hall, or when he learns Torah and recites his prayers. Rather, it must illuminate "outside the veil" - in the street, in his business dealings, and in his relations with his fellow man. (Yalkut Eliezer)

And his sound shall be heard when he goes into the holy place (Ex. 28:35)

According to all the signs given by our Sages, ours is the last generation before the coming of Moshiach. In fact, our generation is termed "the heels of Moshiach," and likened to the "hem of the (kohen's) robe." The hem of the priestly garment was adorned with bells and pomegranates, symbolic of Jews on the lowest spiritual level who are devoid of Torah and mitzvot. And yet, when the kohen approached "the holy place," the bells and pomegranates made a "great noise" - "and its sound was heard." From this we learn that the spreading of Judaism in our generation should be done with the greatest publicity, fanfare and "noise." (Likutei Sichot)

That they may keep its whole form, and all its ordinances, and do them (from the Haftora)

All Jews should familiarize themselves with the "form" of the Holy Temple and become knowledgeable of its many laws and details. This state of readiness is necessary to enable us to commence building the Temple the minute Moshiach arrives. Indeed, when the Jewish people will attain this high level of faith, they will merit to build the Holy Temple in actuality. (Tosfot Yom Tov)

It Once Happened

Among the many special Purims celebrated by Jews throughout the world is the Purim of Fossano, Italy. Fossano is a town in Northern Italy at the foothills of the Alps. In 1798 France was enmeshed in a revolution and Italy was the scene of fighting between France and Italy.

At that time, Napoleon Bonaparte was a 27-year old general who had just been appointed Commander-in-Chief of the French forces in Italy. The French advance had been stalled, and it was hoped that the young, fiery general would breathe some life into the French military campaign. Indeed, this was the case, and under Napoleon's leadership the French armies began to score one victory after another.

Just before Passover, the French laid siege to the town of Fossano, and began a bombardment of the little city. The bombardment came almost daily and did considerable damage to property, inflicting also a number of casualties. Yet, the city did not surrender, though the situation appeared gloomy.

In the midst of the siege, Passover came. The Jews were resolved to celebrate their Festival of Liberation with joy. Passover was a time of anxiety and danger for the Jews, even in normal times. The hatred of the Christians toward their Jewish neighbors often was roused to a pitch during the Easter season. Passover time was a favorite season for all sorts of wild accusations against the Jews, including the terrible blood libel with its fantastic charge that Jews use Christian blood in their matzot. Any excuse, however ridiculous, was sufficient to start a mob attack against the defenseless Jews. Small wonder, therefore, that the Jews of Fossano were filled with anxiety. Yet, when Passover came, the Jews celebrated the two Seder nights and the first days of the festival with their usual joy. This made many of the townspeople very angry.

What could be better evidence that the Jews were happy about the enemies successes? Rumors began to spread among the Christian population that the Jews were in sympathy with the enemy that, they were perhaps even signaling to the enemy!

Sensing the dangerous situation, the leaders of the Jewish community appealed to the city elders for protection. But they were occupied with the defense of the city and could spare no soldiers to protect the ghetto.

The second night of the intermediate days of the holiday came. The enemy opened his usual bombardment, but apparently with more deadly accuracy. Somehow, hardly any bombs fell in the Jewish ghetto. The ghetto was a long, narrow street close to the city wall, and the bombs seemed to fly over it and fall into the rest of the city. Now the rabble rousers found it easy to incite the mob against the treacherous Jews. After all, if a victory over the French seemed out of the question, a victory over the defenseless Jews was easy.

Armed with all sorts of weapons, the mob rushed to the Jewish quarter. There was no opposition, for the Jews had left their homes and had taken refuge in the synagogue, where, though greatly out-numbered, they were resolved to defend themselves. Knowing, however, that they had no chance, they could only pray for a miracle to save them from the massacre.

In the meantime, the mob was hacking its way through the ghetto, breaking into homes and stores and pillaging what they could. But this did not satisfy them completely; they thirsted for Jewish blood, and they advanced ever closer to the synagogue, at the far end of the street.

The synagogue was situated on an upper floor. A narrow staircase led to a small vestibule, which led into the synagogue, where the members of the small Jewish community were huddled together awaiting the inevitable attack.

The mob, mad with rage, now reached the synagogue and began to climb up the steps. Now some of them already broke into the vestibule.

Suddenly there was a deafening crash! A bomb, fired at random from a French cannon, burst through the wall of the synagogue and landed in the vestibule right in front of the attackers. Terrified, the attackers took to their heels and beat a hasty retreat. Many of them threw away their spoil, as they ran for their lives, crazed with fear.

It was a wonderful miracle for the Jews of Fossano, for they were saved just at the moment when their fate seemed to have been sealed.

As it happened, the bomb that fell in the vestibule did not do much damage, as if its only purpose was to frighten away the attackers and save the Jews. Soon afterwards, the French captured the city, and the Jews now felt themselves out of danger.

The elders of the Jewish community decreed that the second day of the intermediate days of Passover should be observed every year by the Jews of Fossano as a day of celebration to the Al-mighty for the wonderful miracle of the bomb. Furthermore, it was decided that the gaping hole, which the shell had made as it crashed through the wall, should not be closed up. Instead, it was made a window, around which a golden inscription in Hebrew proclaimed it as evidence of the miracle of the bomb.

Adapted from Talks and Tales

Moshiach Matters

The Talmud states that just as the dawn is the end of the night, so the Book of Esther was the end of the miracles that were given to be put in writing. It was the beginning of the dawn that would blaze to light with the coming of Moshiach, as it is written in Isaiah 60:1, "Arise, shine, for your light has come; G-d's glory shines upon you" (Me'am Loez)

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